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 PANS & Photographers

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Our Future Lies in PANs

I've seen the future and it lies in PANs. A PAN is a Personal Area Network. Bluetooth is the best current example. Bluetooth? Haven't heard of it. It's a PAN of course. (What has Michael been smoking?)

Photographer Phone Home

Before you think me crazy let me explain what's currently going on on in the field of telecommunications and computers and how this relates now and in the near future to the needs of photographers. In addition to being a photographer I have spent part of the past 20 years in the telecom and computer industry. That aside, I use computers and phones a lot (don't we all), and am a keen observer of the technology scene.

Here then is how I'm using some of the latest technology and where I see it going in the future in ways that will affect photographers.


Here's a concrete example from my own current experience that will explain what this technology is, and how it works. I have an Ericsson T39m mobile phone. It's a middle-of-the-road GSM cell phone; not the cheapest, not the most expensive.

Sidebar: I use GSM because I travel internationally, and GSM is the cell phone standard that's used exclusively almost everywhere in the world outside the U.S. and Canada. GSM coverage in North America isn't currently a broad as some other networks, but it's growing quickly. AT&T in the U.S. and Rogers in Canada are in the process of switching their networks over to GSM.

With a tri-band GSM phone like the T-39m I can send and receive calls in over a hundred countries. Automatically. No roaming hassles. Get off the plane, turn on the phone and dial.

The T-39m has Bluetooth technology built in. What this means is that in addition to its cell phone capabilities there is a small low-powered wireless LAN built into the phone. Any other Bluetooth device located within about 30 feet (10 meters) of this phone can communicate with it. What kind of devices? How about a wireless headset. Better yet, how about your PDA?

I have a new Sony CliÈ PDA which I write about recently in my article on Pervasive Photography. Sony makes a Bluetooth card that plugs into it. There are Bluetooth cards available for Palm hand-held computers as well as others. Now with both my PDA and mobile phone both connected over a wireless Bluetooth network some interesting things are possible.

One can access email and the Web from the PDA. The phone, which is simply acting as a wireless modem doesn't need to be physically connected to the PDA. Anywhere without about 30 feet is fine; inside ones pocket, in a briefcase, across the room. All dialing, logging on and so forth is done from the PDA.

For me at least this means that I can be out of the office all day with my phone and PDA, both of which combined hardly make a bulge in a jacket pocket. I can stay on top of my emails, even responding to urgent ones from a restaurant, park bench or shooting location. In fact, anywhere in the world that has GSM service.

This applies to web browsing as well, though I limit this to checking flight arrival schedules, weather and urgent news. While these activities can be done on some phone doing this on a large bright colour screen has definite advantages.

Also, while new products like the Handspring Treo combine a Palm OS PDA with a GSM phone, I prefer to have these devices separate — at least for the time being. With an all-in-one device if the phone battery goes, you no longer have an operational PDA, and visa-versa.

Beam That Picture Up Scotty

So what does all this have to do with photography? This is the kind of stuff one can read about in the computer mags and Thursday technology section of the paper. Where's the photography angle?

It's this. Today I can take a photograph with my PDA and instantly email it


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Concepts: Mobile phone, Bluetooth, GSM, Cellular network, Smartphone, Personal digital assistant, GSM services, Personal area network

Entities: Sony, Ericsson, AT&T, Palm, North America, Canada, U.S., Phone Home, PAN, wireless modem, Palm OS, Michael Reichmann, Michael, Bluetooth, GSM

Tags: phone, Bluetooth, cell phone, GSM phone, mobile phone, computer, tri-band gsm phone, bluetooth cards, GSM cell phone, T39m mobile phone, technology, Photographer Phone Home, cell phone standard, cell phone capabilities, Sony Cliu00c8 PDA, Palm OS PDA, wireless bluetooth network, best current example, low-powered wireless lan, phone battery, Personal Area Network, Palm hand-held computers, GSM coverage, operational pda, Bluetooth device, Bluetooth technology, GSM service, flight arrival schedules, Thursday technology section, large bright colour, email, keen observer, wireless headset, Handspring Treo, technology scene, latest technology, wireless modem, computer industry, urgent ones, computer mags